Monday, August 31, 2015

Where Do the Hard Days Go?

Fatigue is like running in a dream... you know how fast you need to go to survive, but your legs and arms are so heavy. Your brain feels like it put on 40 lbs over night and took up chain smoking. All you want to do is curl up and watch Netflix in the sweet embrace of a squishy chair... brownies optional. (I'm just saying that to be nice. Brownies are a necessity.)

When joy and enthusiasm support us, we can take on all kinds of challenges like a boss. Yesterday, I Serena-Williamsed church with the kids by myself while dear husband was at a work event. Today I crushed the kitchen cleaning!

On the other hand, when we're fatigued... it's like having a broken leg and still being expected to finish the race. It's like running out of gas and still being expected to get the car full of screaming children and groceries home from the store.

Wouldn't it be great if we could just give ourselves grace in spades, stay in our PJs, and find the mute buttons our kids were so handily equipped with whenever we needed it? (What? There's no mute button!?! *facepalm*)

But real life never quits.
Monday never fails to follow Sunday evening.
Needs never pause.
There's never someone ELSE to answer the call, "Moooooooommy!!!!!!"
There isn't another person in this family who lactates.

You can squeeze grace into margins, but you have to keep moving.

Can I be the voice in the crowd today that looks you in the eye and says, "That is so hard. I'm so sorry."

I can't carry your burden... but I can tell you I feel it. In my deepest places, I am tired too today. Put your head down while I stroke your hair. Gentle Friend, you are fighting a good fight. You may feel trapped, you may feel invisible, you may feel voiceless... I see you. God sees you.

The Bible tells us that he has stored every one of our tears in a bottle (Psalm 56:8).
He has kept records of your hurting heart, your weariness, your fatigued hours in the rocking chair at 3am, your days spent on creaking knees scrubbing someone else's mess. When you say, "Not one more day, Lord! Please, not one more day!" he puts that day on the shelf next to the tear bottle, and he promises, "I will restore to you the years that the locust has taken" (Joel 2:25).

I'm sorry, Sisters. It's hard. But it is holy. The nose wiping, the laundry, the second pot of coffee... they are holy work... and they will be redeemed in glory one day. You are laying up treasure in a good place where no baby will come behind you two seconds later and pull it off the shelf AGAIN.

I hope that touches your heart.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Bring Us Your Righteous Bedtime, O Lord

Sometimes I'm genuinely walking in my "Best Self" shoes. Some days, not so much.

Tonight I was wrestling a cranky toddler--hell bent on squeezing 5 more minutes out of his already-late bedtime--into pull ups. He wailed and flailed. He was determined not to go to bed, even if that meant sitting on the potty for fake attempts at poop... but the gig was up. And so was my patience.
Somewhere under my breath I was muttering, "Would you just shut the fluff up and get your stupid butt in these pants before I lose my mind?!"

Just because God has a sense of humor, this verse popped into my mind out of nowhere: "Man's anger does not bring about the righteousness of God." 
O ho ho! I see what you just did there Holy Spirit. 

I mentally flipped my pony tail and thought-retorted, "Dear God, I'm not trying to bring about your righteousness right now. I'm trying to bring about BEDTIME." 

Oooh, recalcitrant child. God should put me to bed early for my sassy mouth. (I'm not the only one who Thought-Retorts at God, am I?... 'Cause that would be awkward.)

Today I was reading through the Gospels searching for Jesus' emotional responses to situations. Almost every time he responds to individuals, crowds, situations and even cities on the horizon, the emotion is "Compassion" or "Pity"... or he just flat out bursts into tears. Jesus was no stoic. He had all the feels. 

But I had another little Thought Retort brewing in the back of my mind: "Would Jesus be all, 'Let the little children come to me!' if he had to be a stay at home dad?!" 

The answer was in front of me. For years he was followed around by thousands of people. Constantly asked for help. Constantly being touched. Constantly listening to complaints and tears and tales of brokenness. Constantly looking at the world through double-vision eyes that could see both the physical hurting and the spiritual brokenness of his beloved children even while they stamped their feet and asked for more, more, more. When he wasn't touching people, healing booboos, cradling children, he was being pestered by cranky religious intellectuals asking, "Whyyyyyyyy?? Whhhhyyyy Jeeeeesuuus?" 

Oh, gosh. 
This is starting to sound like... wait... could it be... mom life?!?! 

In a way, Jesus really did live Mom Life. BUT.... he never lost his compassion. When he got off a boat and there were 5000 people waiting for him, he didn't mumbled, "Aw give it a rest! For the love!" He instantly experienced such a deep moving of the heart that his disciples had to literally invent a new word in Greek for it.

Charles Spurgeon tells us that, "The original word is a very remarkable one. It is not found in classic Greek. It is not found in the Septuagint. The fact is, it was a word coined by the evangelists themselves. They did not find one in the whole Greek language that suited their purpose, and therefore they had to make one. It is expressive of the deepest emotion; a striving of the bowels—a yearning of the innermost nature with pity." 

HOW?! Good guacamole!! How in the name of biscuit mix?! With all that pressure, all that total all consuming need... I buckle under the all-consuming need of two humans. Let alone 5000. Let alone ALL the humans on the planet.

I don't know kids. I don't know. But I'm inspired. I'm inspired to take pause when the crazy is hitting the fan... take a beat... and dig a little deeper for the eyes that see my own children like He sees me. 

Did I succeed at this today?  Most definitely NOT AT ALL. Praise God there's bedtime, and there's always tomorrow.

Friday, August 28, 2015

If I Fail... The Story Doesn't End

Dry nursing has got to be one of Dante's seven levels of hell.

If you have no idea what I'm even talking about... it's basically when the baby suckles at the breast but isn't actively getting any milk out. Nails on chalk board. EECCCH!!!!
If you have never experienced this... imagine a cat with a tongue made of sandpaper chewing on the tip of your nipple and humming the national anthem. Ugh.

I tend to have insomnia. It takes me a looooong time to quiet my mind and fall asleep. It's genetic, I guess. My dad has the same problem. The minute I begin to drift away.... WWAAAAAA!!!! Baby crying. He won't be comforted by anyone or anything but me.

This is a hard stage.

With Dear Son Number One, this was the age (8-9 months) at which my strength began to buckle and I began to fall into depression. By 10 months old, the black water had swallowed me. A corner of my heart fears that the water is rising.

I'm not there yet (thanks be to community and medication and a husband who is now a skilled father and my Lord who has walked me through this valley of death before).... but man, it is nipping at my heels.

What are the weapons against depression? I truly believe it often starts with admitting that those shadowy hands are tugging at your heels. If you aren't afraid to admit that to yourself, then you'll be willing to take a nap if you need it, make a freezer meal if it helps you survive the night with kids, be gentle with yourself at the gym, recognize that your irritation is not your spouse's fault, take a few more deep breaths, spend some time with a book in your hands instead of a mop... all kinds of grace and mercy in all kinds of weird little forms.

So here I am... admitting it again... My Tired is a little more than just lack of sleep. My Tired is becoming bone deep. And I am not strong. But I am brave. I know that I can survive no matter what. I know that my weakness has been used to touch hearts in the past... so I'm not afraid of it. I will strive, but if my strength fails, Beauty and Love will not.

"He has said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.' Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. I am well content with weaknesses for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Cor 12:9-10


PS -- Little incredible acts of love have been lifting my spirits left and right this week.

A girlfriend just randomly gave me a shirt of her's that I was complimenting her on. (Tender love! Oh my gracious!)

Our pastor's wife knew I was going to have a long day alone with the kids, so she texted me around bedtime to make sure I was doing ok and give me the Mama-couragment. We clinked wine glasses through the inter-webs. (Solidarity is sweet!)

A friend from way back in college sent me a private message to tell me that my writing was touching her. (Ack! So kind to go out of your way to share good feelings!)

A friend at the park told me that my quirky joy was infectious. (Wow wuuut?! Cool. And weird.)

So while I am deeply tired, I'm also feeling INSANELY BLESSED. I'm glad there is space and grace for both of these feelings to exist fully in one life.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Us is Cooler Than Me

"I like getting older, because everyone begins to have real stories to tell."

Wednesday night we were at a picnic in the park with some of our beloved peeps and some faces that were new to me. One gal was telling me the story of her name. Eliora. "God's Light is in Her."

I looked around the group and realized in a deep and moving way that every single person there had battled through a war story worth telling... most were right in the thick of another one.

Not to mention the fact that every single person at this picnic had wisdom and learning and skills to share. Sheesh! There was so much collected wisdom in that group, it would make you go cross-eyed! Military maps experts, professional musicians, mechanics, Bible scholars, artists, athletes, builders... good grief. And all of this from a very, very normal "hum drum" group of folks. Folks who would call themselves unremarkable. (Folks who are ridiculous and need to be told they're shockingly cool.)

When we stand on our own, the story can seem sadly simple. I'm just being honest! Unless I'm digging for the beauty, my life can look like just another over-educated, under-paid mom story. But, hot dang, when we come together!!!

Community is cool, dudes.

Community is the link that is sorely missing from our world today. Intentional, united, dig-into-your-uglies Community.

Why is parenting so traumatic? Because we try to do it alone until we figure out there's no such thing and find a mama tribe to cradle us through the good times and bad.

Why is marriage so dang difficult? Because we try to be everything to each other... and we can't. We just can't. We are not everything.

Why is loneliness an epidemic? Because you don't go to church, you dumby! (Real community goes waaay beyond church, but let's give credit where credit is due: here is a group of people that has been meeting together regularly for, say, 2000 years and counting? It's at least a good place to get your feet wet.) But more importantly... It's free. A building full of people ready to risk relationship and love and growth together... not to mention coffee, child care, kiddie arts and crafts, and live music WEEKLY... and it's fuuuuh-reeeee. Pssh! I don't care what you believe, I'd be getting in on some of that action for the coffee and childcare alone.

Why has career become so much more highly prized than doing regular life?
Why do we feel so pressured to be so perfect in an imperfect world?
Why is more stuff, bigger house, better clothes soooooo great? It's just stuff with a bigger price tag.

Dream with me here... could it be because we're missing a deep connection to real people? When we disconnect from people all we have left is.... Me. When Me runs out of energy, when Me pursues a job and fails, when Me doesn't have the things, when Me doesn't look the look... what then?

The only remedy for Me is Us.

Our story is beautiful and complex.
Our hands are always ready to help when the other can't.
Our dreams are always rising and falling in a symphony of hope.
Our connection means more than any self-promotion.
When we unite, it becomes clear that Me doesn't have to do it all, because that thing and that thing and that thing are someone else's wheelhouse. It's liberating.

My dearest Peeps.... if you do anything in the next five years, let it be to connect to community. It will radically impact your story. It's like a 1 step program to awesome.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Blub Bluub Bluuub

Have y'all read the children's book, "The Pout Pout Fish"?

He always says, "Blub, bluuub, bluuuuuuuuuuub."

That's my brain today. Bless my heart.

Praise God for great friends that organize play dates so you don't have to come up with something to do with yourself... who don't even flinch when your offspring descend like locust and eat all the snacks.

Praise God for husbands who take children outside who have woken up too early from their naps against all odds.

Praise God for Windex... the weapon of mass fly destruction. So many dead flies.

Praise God I'm too tired to get up and reach for the box of cookies... the cookies will live to see another day.

Praise God for these harem pants... I feel "Euro Chic" while remaining in the functional equivalent of pajamas all day AND (bonus) avoiding the "leggings aren't pants" inner monologue. Winning.

But y'all.... so tired. So very tired. Just feeling worn down. My heart is full of joy! But my mind and spirit and body feel utterly sapped at this moment. When I'm with my children I'm exhausted. When I'm away from my children, I'm guilty... or rushing around trying to do ALL the errands/cleaning/excercise/meal-prep/etc before they come back.

Yes, I'm looking for grace. And I see it! And I celebrate it!

But I'm still so tired right now.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Goals Make Bad Gods

We're all 'aspiring somethings' until we make it.

Aspiring writer.
Aspiring surgeon.
Aspiring rhythmic gymnast. (I know you're out there somewhere! We're all jelly of your ribbon dancing stick.)

Somewhere deep in my hidden heart, I think I'm an aspiring pole dancer. So strong! So elegant! And the crazy shoes... mmm. (Dear Jesus, can I have a do over? Preferably with a thigh gap?)

You know what we are after we've made it?
After we've achieved the thing we were yearning for, leaning into, aspiring toward?
When we get there, we become... wait for it... "Aspiring Something-Elses."

Hi, welcome to the human condition. You will never be satisfied.

It can be both embarrassing and empowering to identifying we are aspiring to out loud. Especially when we may seem lightyears away from the possibility of grasping it... Like, when a 400 lb 80 year old says they want to run a marathon. You want to be supportive, but eeeeeh. Yeah. It's just awkward for everyone.

So I'll go first: I'm an Aspiring Writer. I have many pokers in this fire. A children's book, a middle grades fiction, and an adult novel. And my blog. My blog is my "writing gym" where I exercise my writing muscles.

(Speaking of the gym... On the way to the gym this morning I was an Aspiring-To-Be-Not-So-Fat Person. But after 20 minutes of running, I was transformed into an Aspiring-To-Be-Reading-A-Book-Instead-Of-Sweating Person. MMmmkay good.)

Back to aspirations!

They're pretty great. We live in a culture that prizes goals and going for it and succeeding enormously. (If you doubt me, please spent five seconds on Pinterest. For that life time dose of inspiration.... you're welcome.) And that's beautiful. But what if it all falls apart?

My aspirations used to be my God. They guided me in the way I should go. They defended me from the enemy of purposelessness. They defined my identity. They gave me joy. When I floundered, I reached out and grabbed the life raft of aspirations to lift me up out of the muck.

Life lesson number 439.2:  Aspirations make bad Gods.

They can be so easily ruined.
When they fall apart, so will you.
Plus, when you achieve them... Poof! They morph into something else. Talkaboucha' frustration.

I used to laugh at people who said that Jesus should come first. Because, how would that even work? I mean, we have to have goals and jobs and make our way in the world. If Jesus comes first... wouldn't we all be pastors? Or at least Bible School graduates? No thanks, I said. Jesus is my wing man, while I aspire aspire aspire.

Then Jesus gently let my aspirations implode.
My god wobbled and fell.
My framework for self-definition was destroyed. And really, it almost destroyed me. There was a season when I prayed many times for a truck to run me off the road because I didn't have the hutzpah to turn the lights out on life myself. All because my god died.

Now I'm kind of getting it... a little bit of it... it's growing in my heart... what it feels like to let Jesus come first. To prize giving yourself away over gaining recognition. To choose smaller and poorer if it means staying nearer to the hurting for love's sake. To choose less for the sake of of all of us. To choose low for the sake of the Other. To hold my rightness with soft hands and gingerness, for the sake of the Kingdom.  To submit to being weak: not trying to claw my way out of it to be awesome again, but asking God where he needs a weak warrior to bring up the rear.

Turns out there's a lot of us limping along here in the back of the pack. Turns out Jesus leaves the 99 to search for the 1 staggering beloved.

Turns out aspiration (a me center life) is a weak and frustrating substitute for a life inspired by grace, compassion, and love... a life that is about a bigger story than my own recognition and success... a life that is about bringing the love of the Kingdom to the world.

Now I aspire to be faithful. There is freedom there. There is grace for the failures. There is a strong helper for the long way.

And when I hit days like today, when I really have nothing left to give but faithful weakness... I believe God smiles and says, "Well done, good, faithful, and unshowered servant. Come into my rest and watch Project Runway with your mint chocolate chip ice cream. The laundry pile will make an excellent perch. And the blessing of God Almighty--Father, Son, and Holy Spirit--be with you as you cry because your favorite designer got axed and Tim Gunn didn't save."

As a long-time, hard-core, give-no-quarter Aspirerer... as a lean-inner, a push-harder-er, a perfectionist of the first degree... can I tell you how radically beautiful that is?

It is.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Shouting "Woooo HA!" at Suffering

My favorite thing my son says is, "Woooooo HA!"
A deft hybridization of "Woo hoo!" and "Yee Haw!"
Doesn't that just tickle you silly? Ridiculous. That kid... he's hilarious.

Today I'm thinking, there are a lot of things to "Woooo HA!" about in my life. There are also a lot of things that I completely hate. And it's not a neat, tidy divide. Very often, these two categories are inextricably intertwined... I can't have the "Woooo HA" without the "UGH."

I hate going to sleep at night knowing that I may be dragged from my nice warm bed many times... like, every hour. As I stagger across the hall, my bones ache and I just feel pissed. Hate it. UGH.
But when I'm curled up in my wing backed chair, in the dead of night, fogged with exhaustion... and it's just us. Silence. No distractions, and I'm pressed under the warm floppy-rag-doll body of my sleeping child... my heart is singing, "Wooo HA!" No one gets to love him like that but me.

I hate my stretched out belly.
I love that despite my imperfect body, my husband seems to GENUINELY see beauty in me. It's wild. It's insanity. It's amazingly beautiful and life-giving. "Wooo Ha!" And I couldn't have this unmerited favor without my flaws.

I hate weariness. Pressing through "not enough" every day. But I love naps. Naps are so sweet when you're bone-deep tired. I never loved naps before having children... now I dream about them with an intense passion only seen in starving people dreaming of food. Naps! Woooo HA!

I don't want to glibly to be all, "It's about your perspective, ladies!" because you can change your perspective all day (or, sometimes you can't, but that's another thing) and still hate where you are.
You can look for the bright sight, dig for the silver lining, stiffen that upper lip, and still despise the season you're in. It happens.
I'm really not a baby lover... they're precious, they make me smile, I can pinch cheeks and blow raspberries with the best of them... but ultimately, it's just not my jam. Most people groan in misery when their kids turn 2. For me it was the beginning of finding joy in parenting. But babies? Eck, I can savor every moment and still be screaming internally, "GET ME OUT OF HERE!"

Changing your perspective is not about making you love your circumstances, but it is about redeeming the things you don't love into a life you can celebrate.

Corrie ten Boom comes to mind. She had a knack for spotting the shards of mercy scattered through her shattered life. That didn't make her story happy, but it sure did make it beautiful.

Where is the small fragment of grace hidden in the thing you UGH?
Where is the itsy bitsy glimmer of "Wooo Ha" celebration in your least favorite trials?
That is the buoy that will float you upward through life's difficulties.
That is the fragment of heaven hidden in a broken world.

The utter softness of a baby's hand wrapped around your thumb when you're so tired you could puke? That is a promise of Christ's redemption of the world at it's finest.

I have a hunch that looking for grace is not about putting on rose colored glasses. Not about forcing ourselves to smile when we want to lay down and weep. It's about leaning into eyes that look up, over, and beyond the limping world and seeing where heaven peeks through.

You Might Be a Hipster Mom - PART ONE

In the spirit of Jeff Foxworthy's "You Might Be A Redneck"... let's engage in some "steal like an artist" plagiarism and bring this little comic device into the modern age. 

If your baby is wearing skinny jeans, fashionable headwear, and leather moccasins but can't walk...
                                                                                                 You might be a hipster mom.

If you consider fermentation a food group...
                                                                                                 You might be a hipster mom.

If you've ever listed your Primary Care Physician as Dr.Bronner...
                                                                                                 You might be a hipster mom.

If you pretty sure "Angel of Death" refers to the conventional grocery stores...
                                                                                                 You might be a hipster mom.

If most of your conversations include the word "gluten"...
                                                                                                 You might be a hipster mom.

If you tried to do the house cleaning, but realized you were out of vinegar and gave up...
                                                                                                 You might be a hipster mom.

If you've met your bacon in its first life and approved it's living conditions...
                                                                                                 You might be a hipster mom.

And for the fathers out there... because, gender equality!

If your first child is an iMac and your second is a beard...
                                                                                                 You might be a hipster dad.

If you've said the words, 'We're breastfeeding, so..."
                                                                                                 You might be a hipster dad.

If you let your 3 year old taste your beer because its craft brew... and therefore not real alcohol...
                                                                                                 You might be a hipster dad.

If you answer the question 'When will you know you've made it?' with the words "farm", "goats", "off the grid" or "build my own house"...
                                                                                                 You might be a hipster dad.

That's all I got for now! Please comment or write to me and help me add more. 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Panic and Peace

Panic is back.

Whenever I reveal this to someone, the question that often follows is, "Why?" 
"Why are you panicking? What's got you worried?"

In the words of Jedi Master Yoda, "Panic or Panic Not; There is no why." 

Simma down now, Nerds! So, that's not exactly how the quote goes, but its close. 

There is no why. There is no reason for the total-body experience of feeling like you're wedged between fainting and dying of a heart attack while being dangled by your toes off a 30 story building.
There is no line of logic between stimulus and this suck fest. You can literally open your eyes in the morning and feel the sensations of panic in your body before a single thought has crossed your mind.

Panic is your body snatching the controls away from your rational mind and putting you into auto pilot for the sake of self preservation. It's goal is to keep you alive. Since panic is single-minded and seriously over-kill it sees everything as a threat. So, no matter how fine you may be, your body wants you to RUN FOR YOUR LIIIIIIIIIFE!!!!! Pretty much the only place Panic wants you to be is safe at home in your bed. Even there it doesn't subside. Like a tornado warning, ARROOOGA ARROOOGA, it wants to warn you not to even think about getting up and going out in that world that's trying to kill you.

Panic is mean. I mean, it has good intentions, but it's the ultimate Helicopter Parent. And it isn't afraid to abuse you to get what it wants.

"What does it feel like?" courageously curious people ask.

First your head goes light and swirly. Then your elbows and knees turn to jelly and your heart starts lurching against the back of your ribs. Tightness constricts around your chest. You want to swallow a huge cleansing mouthful of air to feel the sweet relief of oxygen, but suddenly there's only a thimble worth of space in your lungs. So you suck in as many thimbles as you can because you don't want to suffocate. 

Worry comes first. Worry says, "What the heck is happening to my body? I'm going to faint. I'm going to faint. I'm going to faint." It makes it worse. But you're no fool... you calmly ask yourself if there is a reason you would be feeling like this out of the blue. Should I be worried?

Once you've determined that you're not, in fact, having a heart attack, you try to go about your day normally. Surely if you just shake it off, it will leave. But you still feel like you're going to faint. Imagine trying to go about the normal routines of life with children (breakfast, shopping, park, school) feeling like you are one thimble of oxygen away from passing out. 

The feelings don't stop. 
The feelings increase.

My best strengths do nothing for me in the face of panic. 

I can't research my way out. Panic doesn't care what information I have on the subject. It doesn't care if I know it's not a real thing. It doesn't care if I identify it as a bossy control freak who is taking away my life. It still takes over.

I can't think my way out. Panic sees my brain searching for a door to leave and starts chasing it, making it run faster than normal, never allowing it finish a complete thought... and, ultimately, it just laughs at me.

And I can't coffee my way out. Dadgumit, Panic, you even take away my best friends! Ugh. 

The only thing that truly wins the Panic battle is time. Mental gymnastics, breathing exercises, prayer, sleep, exercise. They may help, if your lucky, but I've never known them to stop the experience. If the panic holds on for days and days, your mental determination not to let it swallow you whole will begin to get weary and waver. Then depression can easily creep in.

It's a hard road. I'm not gonna lie. 

I don't have it all figured out, but if you've walked this road before or you're on it now... I want you to know you're not crazy. I am a gentle friend to you in this moment. 

Many people deal with anxiety for years and genuinely don't know what it is. They think they're sick... because you feel sick... but it's, weirdly enough, kind of all in your head. 
Our minds and bodies are connected. It's how we stay alive. It's how we avoid the lions and tigers and bears. It's how we learn to follow our instincts... because they're loud and messy and can't be ignored.

As much as we are children of God, we are very much made of earth. We are critters with instincts and chemical bodies. The shepherd turned king, David--who historically suffered bouts of epic depression and anxiety--says "He knows our frame; he remembers that we are but dust" (Psalm 103:14).  

I find that beautiful and comforting. God understands the building blocks of our bodies. He did, after all, "knit me together in my mother's womb" (Psalm 139). We live in a broken world where the functions of our bodies (which are meant to preserve us) sometimes tear us apart. But God doesn't scorn us for our Panic. We do not sin for suffering anxiety against our will. 

Psalm 139 says he "knows my anxious thoughts." 
Psalm 56:8-9 says "he has put my tears in a bottle." 
Psalm 40:11 says "he will not withhold his compassion." 

Jesus said, "Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28-30. "I have told you these things that you may have peace... I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid" (John 14:27).

Take comfort, sweet silent sufferers... with your bodies bashing you around like an abusive partner... God's eyes are eyes of mercy. His heart is full of compassion. He is not opposed to you while it feels like everything else is. Your body may not be on your team right now, but Jesus is.

That's all. Peace. 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Wonder Women. Messy Misses.

Tonight I went to a neighborhood church thing to support a friend who pastors there. I couldn't help but notice the women. All stripes. All so special and unique. I never really noticed them all like that before. My eyes were wide open.

Luminous 50 somethings, radiating a comfort in their own skin that they've earned over years of working out this life thing. A few 40 somethings, stylish and blissfully baby-less, but pinching thighs and cooing over the plenty of new offspring around them. Here and there a really old character with fascinating quirks... maybe a little lonely. Mothers smiling at adopted children. Wow. Beleaguered baby jugglers managing far too many arms and legs and voices and travel snacks. Loads of single ladies being all cool and free together. Newish-ly married gals observing the shenanigans with wondering eyes.

We are a beautiful moving picture. Ladies, when we live in community together, we create a three dimensional vision of what it means to be a woman. I can look ahead and see my future... the trials, the victories, the light at the end of the tunnel. I can look back and recall with thankfulness the seasons that I've lived and loved and left behind. Neither the good times nor the difficulties will be with us forever. That makes them both a little sweeter in a way, huh?

Can I say to you, younger women of the world, that we have gone before you not to show you how it is done but to make the way messy for you?

Oh boy, have we made all the messes and mistakes! All of them. Done. Not so we can figure out how to avoid them, or preach the proper way it should be done to you, but so you can have all the grace when you run right into them too.

We have mucked it up real good, so, sister, you have permission. All the permission from all of us to try and fall flat and to be loved limping. There are a million ways. To do marriage, children, work, passions, health, community, church, religion. Even if it looks almost the same, there are always subtle differences... (let's insert something corny here about snowflakes, for pity sake!) But the point is, we're all unique bumblers, so bumble to your own beat, girl. And we'll clap along. It'll be a ruckus, but we'll be having fun.

We have lived not to acquire "how to" knowledge to preach at you, but I hope we have gained "Who to" knowledge that we can shine as a light on your path. Knowledge that teaches us what matters and where to look for hope when we straight up bust it in front of everyone.

Whose voice matters? Whose approval matters? Whose promise is better than all the rest?
If you see someone living in a way that you love, ask them, "Who do you live for?" It won't be for themselves, or their children, or their spouse, or their work, or their community, or their social justice mission, or their politics. It will be something that holds it all that together. It will be Someone who promises that all these things will be restored to perfection in the fullness of time.

This messy life! How weird. How beautiful.

Go, Messy Misses! Live it all bravely without fear of foibles and failing. Live it mercifully, letting others muck up around you and keep right on trucking. Let this be our stunning uniqueness in the world, that we love one another.

"A new commandment I give to you: that you love one another, even as I have loved you... By this all men will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another." - John 13:35

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Shame Exchange

I parented out of shame tonight. It felt horrible.

We were at Chick-fil-A. (Yes, again! Quiet with the judgey eyes, you.) A mom three tables down had two boys too (7 and 4). They were immaculately dressed, for starters. Spotless matching shirts. Shoes without a shadow of dust, let alone mud. Suede shoes, I might add... no waterproof Crocs for this family. And socks. (Who actually wears socks these days? Socks might as well be pantyhose in our family of barefoot crazies.)

Just for the sake of comparison... E-Money was wearing a T-Rex shirt that he has refused to wash for three days and a pair of pajama pants printed with dragons and knights. So... You know... Of course, I feel like I have "Hillbilly" tattooed on my forehead in front of Princess Kate.

At this point I haven't even heard her speak. But I was about to...

I'm not gonna mince words here, she was a Nazi. When her boys skipped (yes, skipped, like little lambs) from the bathroom to their seats at the table, she grimly demanded that they return to the bathroom door and WALK to the table. By the way, I overheard this while sprinting toward the bathroom after my child, holding his muddy Crocs in one hand and pulling his brother in a high chair covered in mashed fruit with the other. Good. Very good, Blair. Top marks.

She got up about six times to tell them not to squeal with joy (in the sound-proofed play place that we love so dearly because of that very feature), not to run in the PLAY place, not to JUMP in the PLAY place... need I go on? I have never heard so many corrections come out of one woman's mouth in the space of half an hour in my life.

Instead of registering, "Hmm, this is abnormal, and bless her heart, but I'm glad I don't have to drink whatever's in her koolaid" I pretty much did the opposite. I let her tense personality infect me. I saw her shoot my little hoodlum side eye. I saw her raise an eye brow at us. I felt tiny. I lashed out. At my baby.

"Eames, put your shoes on! Now! No, you cannot go play. Eat your dinner! NOW."

Usually our time at CFA is a time of freedom for both of us. That's why we go. I don't make him finish his meals before he plays. He has to do that at home. In the magical world of CFA, he comes and goes between our table and the play area happily. The joy in his eyes is beautiful. He runs! He makes friends with new kids! He lives his big self without inhibition. Then here comes mom, succumbing to judgment and squashing his joy for no good reason except that I was feeling shame because of stupid comparison.

I instantly saw the confused hurt in my son's eyes. I instantly recognized where I'd gone wrong. What a foolish move. That's not how I parent. I'm a very disciplined parent. He is a very responsive child. But when it's time to be free, it's time to be free.

I course corrected.

We spent the rest of our time there embracing and enjoying our liberation from perfectionism.

At the end of the evening, that 2 year old hunk of burnin' love took his "money" (the book in the kid's meal) and marched bravely up to the counter and said, "I would likka ice cream pwease. Here mah money." He made the trade... and probably lined up a date for prom while he was at it.

When you're strict where it matters and free where it doesn't (which is, believe it or not, most things), I think you end up with kids that take a lot of responsibility for themselves, operate out of a position of security, charge into life with joy.

Shame makes us rule followers. Love makes us brave and beautiful.
The same love Jesus shows me, I want to show it to my kid. I think it's working out.
At least for today.
Don't judge me tomorrow when you see him hurl himself down in the grocery aisle and cuss a blue streak in baby language.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

"How Hard Could It Be?"

"I think I'll be the mom who proves it can ALL be done," said me when I was hilarious.

"How hard can it be to just get in the shower?" said me when I smelled like roses.

"I'd like my kids to wear fashion-conscious clothes without graphics on the front," said me before the goal was just being clothed in public.

"The baby nursery is all decorated and ready for him to arrive," said me when I completed projects. #firstbabyproblems

"Obviously being a stay at home mom can't be easy, but there are women that actually work... so stop your whining," said me before children destroyed my whole house all day, blew their noses on my hair, wiped poop on things, asked Why eighty-five-bajillion times, needed 29 diaper changes a minute, 6 baths, 12 new outfits, 3 full bed changes, and definitely a solid hands and knees scrubbing of the kitchen 4 times a day. (Not starting this war! Working moms, I deeply respect your struggle. #momlivesmatter)

"When my baby sleeps through the night..." said me three years ago. Call out the concealer! God bless you cosmetics.

"I've been watching my carb intake for about 2 seconds and I'm down five pounds," said me... that bitch. Ugh.


This was originally going to go in a totally different direction... but it's pretty great how many ideas I had about parenting before doing it. One of my favorite quotes: "Before I had kids I had 6 theories about parenting. Now I have 6 kids and no theories."

To you out there with no kids, I'm not saying don't have ideas! Girl, you get those plans! You decorate that bedroom! Cast your vision! But hold it loosely. And when it gets totally wrecked by real life (cause it's gonna happen, somewhere sometime) smile, shake your head, and look for the humor. Don't let the destruction of your vision equal the destruction of your identity as a mom.

You are more than how your kids look and act. You are more than nicely decorated bedrooms and all natural toys. You are more than your family's meal plan. You are more than control top yoga pants and baggy Ts. You are more than the state of your house, your creativity, your execution of epic birthday parties. You are more than your commitment to breastfeeding. You are more than the method you used to get your baby out of your body. You are more than the failures, the successes, the struggles.

When it goes wrong (when, not if) let the ideas you hold most dear float away, and bring the baby you hold most dear a little closer to your heart. This little person represents the end of 'your life' and the beginning of 'our life'. It's how we were always meant to live... the modern world just fooled us for a second into thinking individualism was actually a thing.

"I think I'll now go sip my coffee in peace and prepare for the day," said me when my silly boys weren't sitting on my face asking for yogurt and scrambled eggs.

KawaMama Out!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Connection Anyway

If I had to guess, I'd go out on a limb and say we all have a weird relationship with transparency.

We deeply want to be seen and heard and known and loved, but we don't want to be exposed, judged, mocked, minimized, or marginalized.

Connection vs. Condemnation. Showing myself is always a tug or war between these strong drivers.

Hi, my name is Blair and I'm a recovering People Pleaser. It's been about five minutes since the last time I freaked out about what someone thought. I probably fret more about judgement than four humans combined. It's redonkulus. But in all this fretting and actin' a fool, I have discovered a powerful key that lets Connection beat Condemnation every time.

Here it is: Acknowledge that Condemnation is probably going to yank you off your feet. Brace yourself. Roll with it. Then pick up that rope and run for Connection anyway.

We will be judged... but we may be loved.

There will be haters... but we may find community.

Snarky will almost definitely get lobbed our way... but truth may touch brave hearts.

We will fear and want to hide again... but we may grasp freedom and start walking with new beauty.

I read a quote from Brene Brown which is so perfect: "When we deny out stories they define us. When we own our stories, we get to write the ending." Own it. Own the Condemnation and then tell it who's boss. Step right over Condemnation and into the loving arms of "Connection Anyway."

Sometimes we choose vulnerability. Sometimes it chooses us, blindsides us, embarrasses us in public.

Story time at the library is always a great opportunity for me to risk some vulnerability with this family of hoodlums. A few weeks ago we braved story time again. The wild man behavior from E-Money was ludicrously extreme. All the bad things happened. I got ALL OF THE SIDE EYE from ALL OF THE MOMS. It culminated in him intentionally slashing a few pages out of a book while glaring at me like, "Whatcha gon do now, Biach?!"
By the time we got to the car I was a quivering, angry, shamed mess. By the time we got to our friend's house for picnic lunch, I was in full on panic attack mode. Sobbing. Weird substances coming out my nose. Breathing into a paper bag. (The over-reacting is strong with this one.)

I was physically unable to exit the car, but my friend climbed into the passenger seat with a box of tissues. All my instincts were yelling, "Noooo! Don't see me like this. No one can see me like this!" (Condemnation.) She just gave me a tissue and said, "I don't know what to say, but we see you. And we love you. You may be a mess, but your struggle makes room for messiness and we are blessed. You are a strong woman fighting a good fight, and you will win." (Connection.)

Such a blessing.

Listen, that struggle was NOT a one-and-done event. What can I say? Panic and moodiness like me. My close community gets to see it on more than one occasion. (They endure with me. Miracle of miracles.)

Months after this debacle, I began fretting that the only thing my friends really knew of me was my struggle. I felt like they didn't know I also had a glittery happy side because I'd been in the trench for so long. That fear kept me down (Condemnation)... until I decided to accept that seasons come and seasons go (Connection). In time, my bright side returned.
This is why enduring relationships (not seasonally migrant friends) are so essential. They know me. They see me. They're not leaving when it's ugly. (And they don't let me run away and hide.) They're welcoming when strength returns. I don't have to work as hard to be transparent, because they've walked with me through many layers of my experience.

Oh, and um, yeah.... Living transparently doesn't mean living with the negative on your shoulder all the time. That's called selfish navel gazing. (It's annoying. We all want you to grow up.) Living transparently just means living outwardly (or "towards others") with whatever your strength allows you to give to the world.

Got Joy? Give some.
Drowning in sorrow? Share the load.
Feeling strong? Reach out a loving hand.
Needing help? Hold the hands extended back to you.

Don't make it all about you.
The struggle and the smile-time... they're for sharing and building connections between people.
This journey is for all of us. Transparent life is how we walk together. So shrug off the condemnation. The haters don't know you. Stay open. Stay soft. Go for connection... every time... any way.

Writers Block. A Blessing in Disguise.

Every night I start to fret... what will I do in the morning, I don't have any more stories. I have nothing to say. The good words are gone. The writing in me has come to an end. I've poured out all I have to give. It's over. That's embarrassing. I climb in bed feeling restless and fearful... I have to engage in the discipline of quieting my tumultuous mind, embracing peace, choosing to believe that the Lord gives the words and the Lord takes them away, blessed be the name of the Lord.

Then I wake up in the morning and there is a burning new voice. There are words. They spill out onto the page easily, freely, lightly.

It is weird.

I like it.

I'm so excited for nap time so that I get to transfer the good words I've scribbled during breakfast onto the computer.

"Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, "The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him."
The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord."
--- Lamentations 3:22-26

What a blessing... to be out on a limb, dangling, and to see up close and personal that his mercies are new every morning. It's terrifying to be empty, but it's sweet to be filled. For this habitual worrier, there are a lot of good lessons here.

PS --- If you have EVER walked in the depression valley and recovered, PLEASE go (right now!) and read Lamentations chapter 3. The whole thing. I mean, daaaang. 

Here is a man who has experienced the physical, mental, spiritual anguish of depression and the beauty and liberation of recovery. He explains his afflictions as coming from the Lord, but when he searches his heart, repents of whatever he can find and knows that he is clean, he just prays that the Lord will lift the mysterious hurting. As modern people, we know that depression comes from many sources. I don't think this passage is telling us that the Lord is always punishing us, but that the Lord is always in control. 

In wisdom, sometimes he lets us be empty so we can sweetly be filled. His arm is not to short to turn the trial into a triumph, the burden into a blessing. The writer puts it into a poetry that will really resonate with your heart. Be blessed.  

(Nerdy tidbit... this is an "acrostic poem"... the verses of each stanza begin with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and the verses within each stanza begin with the same letter. Wowza. Talented writing right there.)

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Race Relations for Breakfast

Yesterday a man called my husband's work to make a big stink.

(P.S. People love making big stinks. I have a hunch they do it because they need to regain some power they've lost in an unfair world. And they usually take it out on food service workers. Probably because food service is modeled on the servant and master relationship. Folks, can we agree to bless those who serve us instead of curse them? That would be super. On behalf of the families who have to deal with the stressed out partners who work in food service... we thank you for your commitment to not being an ass hat.)

Anyway, this guy pulls the race card as the reason he wasn't allowed to order breakfast... past breakfast time.

I hate to say it, but this happens A LOT. My husband and myself both have great hearts of compassion for the black experience in America. My sweet husband will do anything for his neighbors, shows respect above and beyond to heal the wounded hearts of black men & women (especially the older generations), and understands that hurt people are often the most likely to hurt back... so he has mercy in spades for things like this.

But sometimes we can't help but roll our eyes.

Dear sir, as a white person is who engages hard with her community to break down barriers, challenge thinking, and achieve racial reconciliation... Please STAAP. Don't throw the race card around like it's Willy Wonka's Golden Ticket.

When you see racial injustice, cry out!
When you see prejudice, stand up!
But when you want your egg biscuit during the lunch menu period... go to Waffle House.

Hey, I'm just going to be honest for a minute, I have heard my black friends joking and dishing about how handy the race card can be. Few things make me more sad.

My dearest friends, our goal is not to leverage our power against each other. We are trying to come together. I get it, white power has a lot of perks, why shouldn't you use the race card to getcha' some? All I can say is, two wrongs don't make a right. When you feel vulnerable, remember that there are those of us who are fighting for you in the white culture. Support us in our mission by using your voice to strike at true evil... not at breakfast sandwiches.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Just One More Step

It's 5:30 a.m.
My brain is knocking around in my head while I nurse my cranky teether for the eleventy-milloneth time. But my body is still definitely completely asleep.

(Did you know I write most of my stuff in my head... because... babies have a habit of filling up my hands. I transcribe to paper when they're eating. Sometimes I lie and say I have to pee so they'll let me run out of the room and hide in the bathroom to scribble. Only when they're asleep do I actually type. Kickin' it old school. I share this because, you can always find a way to walk in your calling from the Lord... it just might be a bit of a traveling circus. No shame. Dance, monkey, dance!)

When you experience a flicker of success, does it come with a little joy and a LOT of new fears? New pressures to do better next time (or at least as good)? A new level of excitement that can slowly and sneakily morph into anxiety? A bar that was hard to reach in the first place has been bumped ever so slightly up. Dang it. Grace that was hard to claim for yourself becomes ever so slightly even more illusive.

*Raises Hand* Present! That's me! This is my story!
It's been my story foooooor-eeev-er.

When I was probably 12 or 13 I got this Christian teen girl magazine. (Do ya'll with the super excited Protestant Evangelical parents remember Brio Magazine? Susie Shellenberger? Uh huh. Some of you are all, "OMGYAAAS!!" and the rest are like, "Um no. What?")

Every year they had a competition to select "Brio Girl." You submitted some essays and tidbits about you. Out of a couple thousand girls they picked 12. Then 8. Then 4. Then that one shining, beautiful, mature girl who would lead and inspire us all for the year. She would write a column in the magazine for a year on girl's issues.

I was one of the 12. I think I got a free CD as a prize.

I was so excited! It was everything I'd dreamed of. Other 12 year olds dream about boys... ok, bad example, I was obsessed with boys, but ALSO I dreamed about writing a column for Brio Magazine. M'LIIIFE!!!

But it crippled me. Yep, you read that right. The success. The success sent me off in a complete tailspin of anxiety, dread, feelings of unworthiness, fear. My mom was so concerned by my weird reaction that she took me to a counselor. I was legit bent out of shape.

I didn't have the words to describe what I was experiencing at that time... the feelings when we reach for something with all our might... if we never get close, it's like, "Oh well, la de dah, at least I gave it a good shot." But if we reach hard and our fingers actually brush against it, suddenly (pardon the phrase) shit gets real. It's not just a fluffy ethereal vague possibility any more. Now it's something I could actually have... which means it is something I could actually lose. And since it is still just barely out of my reach (remember the brushing finger tips?) the insecurity is treacherous.

I wasn't one of the 8. My journey ended. I was never Brio Girl. It was my very first brush with failure. Real failure. (Not just sucking at piano practice and algebra. That's a given. We all get to suck at piano and algebra for free.) It was almost a relief. The ladder ended. The journey was over. I knew the end of the story. Aaaannnnd, Scene! My work is done here.

One of my blog posts has started trending around a small corner of the internet. (WUT?!) Last night as I lay in bed, all I felt was fear. It's easier to fly under the radar and do your thing for yourself. It's harder when people might be watching. It's easier to hide in a crowd. It's hard to be seen.

Here is the sweet word that entered my mind at 5:30 while nursing the fat little one: A calling from the Lord does not mean you get success (and all the pressure that goes with it). It means you get to step forward. One small step.

God is good isn't he? When he gives us a calling, he doesn't drop it on us and peace out. He doesn't leave us to carry it, push it, maneuver it toward success for him and report back with our exceptional results. He will carry it. It is up to us to step. Just step. Just one more step.

Does that give your heart peace? It sure did touch me.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Boys, Boys, Boys

Who needs a puppy (or a mop for that matter) when you have a crawling baby to clean the floor?
That's right, his lunch was scrambled eggs that fell on the floor from breakfast. I'm an exceptional mother.

And if Brother is getting his picture taken... well, of course Older Brother doesn't like to be left out.

Yes his shirt says, "Mr Mischief." I snapped that sucker up at a thrift store. It is easily my favorite. Because it's my life.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Marriage Therapy... It's Cheaper Than You Think

You want to know what will make your marriage hot again?

Help friends move.

You know, like, move houses. Boxes... flat bed trucks... the whole nine.

(Le Baiser Blotto photo by Robert Doisneau, 1950)

For starters, you'll be surrounded by friends you love dearly enough to clean out their fridge, so you'll already be in a good mood. Then your husband will be hefting boxes, benching benches, and exchanging witty banter with other sweaty dudes. Mm. Looking like a fox and being all cool and sassy like he was in college (or wherever you met him) before real life made things difficult and adulting ruined all the fun.

Since you're probably sweating through your shirt and wearing your grungiest clothes, there's no sense in being too dignified. Take this opportunity to do something slightly inappropriate in public. Go on, smack his butt! No one's gonna judge. And compliment him in front of everyone. (I think there may actually be real social science studies that show this saves marriages.) Even if there isn't, his heart will grow three sizes, and you'll mean it. Cause look at him. Helping people! What a good guy! You'll kind of wink at each other across the neighbor's lawn while he single handedly wrestles a desk into a pickup truck and you stack boxes like a giant game of Tetris.

It'll make you young again.

The recipe:
Friends + Work + Fun + Laughing + Sassing Each Other + Showing a little PDA (public display of affection, in case you forgot middle school)

Couples bond over fun. Endorphins surge when you're working hard. Sometimes a candle light dinner and Spanx with the pressure of getting intimate after you've eaten too much of the free bread just isn't the answer to revitalizing your marriage.

So start looking now! Who's moving? Anyone? Anyone? Well, keep your eyes peeled. You'll thank me later.

White Meat, White Privilege & Washed White As Snow

Oh hallowed Chick-fil-A: The haven where mothers go to sit in air conditioning, eat food they didn’t prepare, unleash kids in the mostly-sound-proof play place, and trade their children’s educational Kid’sMeal books for fattening ice cream cones (which they may or may not hide in the bathroom to eat all by themselves… call it the tax for keeping offspring alive... and don't think I don't see those judgey eyes!)  

Last time I was luxuriating in this paradise created expressly for mothers of small children, I met a new friend. A man so ancient, he looked fragile around the edges, but so spunky you couldn’t help but enjoy his sparkle. He had loads of old man kindliness in his eyes and sass in his personality. We chatted it up from our separate booths about kids and jobs and athletics and what it’s like to be retired. 

He peppered the conversation with not-so-subtle Christianisms to let me know that he was ‘A Believer’ as they say. If I had to guess, I’d peg him for a long time Baptist Evangelical who prides himself on going to the ‘contemporary service’ despite his age. 

I volleyed back vaguely positive responses… because I like to keep ‘em guessing and watch how they act. 

Then he proceeded to tell me about his neighborhood: “It’s nice. You look around and you just feel good about living there, because everyone is like you. I mean, it’s not like down here. You don’t see people from different… err… you know, different cultures. I don’t mean that in a bad way. You don’t have, you know, any shenanigans.”

My heart broke. 

I’m not good at saying what needs to be said with bravery to strangers. And, yes, I see the irony between that and my chosen profession of writing to a vast world of readers I’ve never met. But, the conflict, the collision of emotions… it scares me silly. I’d rather filter it through pen and paper and give the emotions space to breathe. 

So, what I failed to say in that moment was…

Sir, the Jesus you claim to love made a life long habit of inserting himself directly into the heart of the shenanigans and the “cultures” at which you are turning up your white privileged nose. In fact, you might say the whole ‘coming to earth’ thing was him leaving the ivory tower of Godburbia (where everything is awesome, the landscaping immaculate, and he is perfectly adored) and entering the ghetto… where people have attitudes, don’t celebrate him, are quicker to distrust than love, constantly demanded handouts, mocked him and ultimately killed him. He swapped paradise for the ultimate low rent neighborhood of the universe. A place where the grit and the grime and the reality of brokenness commingle with the warmth of genuine healing love. “For he who has been forgiven much loves much.” Sir, dear Sir, until you love the low (not tolerate, not patronize, not dabble in, not visit on Christmas Eve, but deeply love), you will never truly know the love of your Savior.

I didn’t say it. I couldn’t. I’m sorry.
But the message is ringing in my head and in my heart. 

People, dearest people, there is no culture, no comfort, no economic theory, no way of speaking and dressing, no normal that is more important than throwing Jesus’ uninhibited love for the downtrodden around like confetti. It doesn't even matter if you believe they ARE downtrodden... Jesus overwhelmed all logic and loved the low.

There was literally no social class, no ethnicity, no profession however distasteful, no ability or disability level, no sinner that Jesus turned away. The only people he rejected were the puffed up religious elite, the “clean.” 

Does that mean we give up our gated communities? Does that mean we put our kids in public school? Does that mean we stop insisting that everyone speak our version of “proper English” to be taken seriously? Maybe. Is that hard to live out? Yes. Will that challenge a lot of the choices you make in a world that prizes getting ahead, moving up, having it all? Uh huh! If that doesn’t convict some hearts, something’s wrong. 

But ultimately our calling is clear… and it ain’t white flight: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters” (1 John 3:16).  

Friday, August 14, 2015

Defeat Fear. Do Good.

Oh hey, remember that one time, like, YESTERDAY when I was talking about celebrating other people who are awesome? Oh, yeah... well... today I reminded myself how much I suck at that.

My husband took the boys to the gym.
I bought a doughnut and a coffee. (Shh. Shhh. Say no words about how I should have been running.)

So I'm here in my happy place with coffee and chocolate-covered fried bread (sorry Paleo)... just secretly wishing that public places weren't so public cause I get distracted by all the humans... when I run into someone we'll just call Mrs.A-Mazing.

She is a writer, a gifted communicator, a superstar mom; has about eleventy-hundred masters degrees in stuff like "soul healing"; and she's one of those powerhouse Christians that kind of makes you wonder, "Are you for real right now? If I get to know you better, will you start telling dirty jokes?" Not to mention she's a stunning red-head with an au naturale glam that makes you totally want to call up Vogue fashion editors and have her dance in a field of flowers while we bask in her light... and then drown her in a pond. Uhhmean..... jussayin. (Insert shifty eyes.)

She told me she was going to read my blog... so this is all really very awkward.

So I've basically just collided with someone who is lightyears better at doing life than I am. She represents my deepest fears: That my life will pass and amount to nothing. That I will leave no good work behind. That I will touch no lives. Leave no legacy. Die homeless and alone. You know. The usual.

Because of that one meeting, all the words I had planned to write today were choked out by insecurities and replaced with corrosive questions. "Are you good enough? Is your story worth telling? Do you matter enough to be heard? Why you? Why your voice? You should quit before you embarrass yourself. You have no qualifications. You are ridiculous with a capital HUSH!"

All day these feelings swamped me. I have 18 notebook pages full of things I wrote and scratched out thinking it wasn't good enough.

Finally, right before getting the kids to bed the entire day's worth of inner monologue began to congeal into something meaningful. I realized that while I had been fighting my own demons, I was really demonstrating to myself how to exercise resilience. I was showing myself a routine/practice for silencing the voices of doubt, getting my head in the game, and getting the show back on the road.

"What defeats fear?" I asked myself.

When you feel paralyzed, get in the trenches. Work your groove thing. Remind yourself why this is your jam. Don't let your dream die while you think about the reasons you suck. Show your dream who is boss. Don't know what to do? Generate some random crap. Just do some work. It doesn't have to be great... but it might be good.

Name it. Call that sneaky accuser out in the open. Say the feelings: She intimidates me. I wasn't ready to be examined by a pro. She's probably judging me, and she has every right to. When you pin words to the shadows, you shine a light on the truth. Somehow it doesn't look that scary anymore. You may even recognize an opportunity. Everyone needs a good critique when they're growing, after all!

Be Nice.
We get nasty with ourselves, ladies and gents. We say things to our poor hardworking selves that we wouldn't dare say to our worst enemy. So, people, there will be no, "I'm stupid to think I can _____." I'll hear no more of your, "I'm a failure." And don't even think about bringing your, "I should give up" into this house. Be nice. You're the only you you've got.

Be Mean. (This is terrible advice, don't listen to me... or do, but don't say I told you so)
It's a harsh world out there. Sometimes we stand on the shoulders of giants... and sometimes we just have to step on their toes in our imagination. So give yourself permission to make a little fun of that super intimidating person in your head. Just a teensy weensy bit. (Don't go off and do it out loud! There's a line, people.) In your head it won't hurt. When you realize that your idol is human, has flaws, doesn't sneeze diamond boogers... you'll smile. You'll feel your hope rising. A joyful heart is good medicine. Then get back to work.

"How good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters dwell together in unity." Psalms 133:1
The longer we practice our craft, the more people we will meet along the way doing the same thing. It is important to practice Fear Resilience so that we can celebrate the blessing of sharing the journey together, supporting each other, growing not shriveling. Not lonely is good. But it will only be good if we let it.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Another Udder Butter

I visited a sheep farm. (Because apparently we have to gaze into the eyes of our next meal and say goodbye before… well… you know.) There was a baby who only 10 days old. He and his mommy were in a nice sized stall in the barn. It was probably 10 feet square. But GOD help that Mrs.Sheep if she tried to walk to the other side of the stall for some peace and quiet. Her lil baby would have a fit, run after her, and immediately want to nurse. I mean, if she even looked sideways at the idea of moving around the pen, that baby was wailing.

Let me tell you what. That is my life.

(Image Credit... Ain't nobody got time to be taking pictures when your babies are trying to feed 40 sheep hay!!)

When the lamb started mewling and fussing and butting her in the udders like that poor mama didn't even have feelings (sniff... sniff... I'm over-identifying here) she would look at me with these bugged out sheep eyes and—I’m not lying—she would sigh like, “Girl, you better think long and hard before you get knocked up.”

Oh girl yes. No one can ever be prepared for this nonsense.

It made me feel better. 

It makes me feel good to know that the insanity of my life with my own baby is very natural. I’m not a poor mother who has failed to instill independence in her offspring. My life is not out of control. Nature just makes crazy babies that don’t permit you to walk across the room alone. And you can just forget about peeing in peace. You can try to fight it, but you will loose. Babies always win. Because they’re fighting for their lives. You’re fighting for your sanity; they are fighting to survive. Every time you walk across the room, they’re pretty sure you’re leaving forever and they are going to die. It’s kind of a big deal. 

So... bring on the udder butting! I can handle it.

And can I just say, if you would like to be happy for, like, ever... just search "sheep" on Pinterest. Then let the sparkling fingers of "aawwwww" tickle your heart.

If You Try to Find a Dentist...

I’ve noticed that my life usually reads like an adult version of the children’s book “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.”

Here, for your viewing pleasure, is a sample:
"If you try to make an appointment for your husband to get his teeth cleaned, you’ll have to go online to find out who is in network and accepts your insurance…
And when you sit down at the computer, no matter how fast you type, your child will poop and forget to wipe…Then he’ll sit down in the hallway and skootch poo across the floor… and then walk in it… and then grab his dirty foot like, “What is this mysterious substance?”
You’ll see it all happening in slow motion and be all slo-mo, “Noooooooo!”
And when you try to lift him--straight armed out from your body, like a 50lb kettle bell--all the while screeching, “Don’t touch me. Don’t rub your face. Don’t kick anything!” he’ll ask “Why?” and do exactly the opposite of what you just said… And then you’ll need a shower too.
But the baby will be crying because he smeared black beans in his eyes… and hair… and inside his clothes and diaper and… ok, it’s everywhere. 
So you'll hose down Poop Boy and toss in Black Bean Boy and wash yourself in the sink… But then you’ll need to get towels for everybody because they don’t like to be cold.
And while you’re getting towels everyone will slip and fall in the tub and wail and fight about who gets to pull up the drain stopper… So you’ll remove the baby and diaper him and use the wet towel as a mop to wipe up poop in the hall (because who has time to get out the mop?)… 
And while you’re moping up poop, your toddler will steal your phone and hide under the bed and take pictures of his genitals, and you’ll have to check every social media outlet to make sure he didn’t make himself into a tiny exhibitionist… Ok, sorry son, a more than average sized exhibitionist.
But no matter how fast you’re looking, it won’t be fast enough, and the baby will manage to get stuck head first in the lego bucket, and the toddler will throw a lacrosse ball across the living room at your computer, your only nice possession, and you’ll die a little bit inside and say, “Now the ball is mine!” 
And everyone will be crying… And you’ll desperately check the clock and realized there are still 20 minutes before nap time, but you'll decide we should all go to bed early. So you'll put the baby in clean dry clothes while he screams furiously at you for ruining his life.
While you're doing that, the toddler will empty the entire contents of your purse and wallet across the kitchen and unspool a whole container of Scotch tape. Just for funsies. And to prove how fast he is at everything.
And you'll say, "Ok. I'm done." You'll dress him and tell him it's bed time but he'll want to sing a song and then he'll want six trucks and you'll need to find them all. 
When the kids are finally in bed, you’ll need to wash all the clothes and towels and clean the entire poop-splattered bathroom.
Then you'll try again to find a dentist for your husband.
But you'll get distracted and write this little ditty because your life is either hilarious or depressing, depending on how you look at it.
But by the time you finish, somebody is bound to have woken up… 
True life. Hand to heaven.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Bends

The only thing harder than raising small children, is keeping the marriage that made said small children on the rails. (Can I get a witness?!) To borrow an oft’ used phrase from our dearly beloved Jen Hatmaker: Bless!

When I woke up this morning, my tall hunky husband didn’t hug and kiss me. He didn’t say good morning. I didn’t put down his Sudoku. The first words out of his mouth to me were, “I think your sore throat is probably a combination of a cold we picked up from church nursery and mouth ulcers.” 

As you can tell, we’re really keeping that spark of romance burning bright. *Facepalm*

This dear man I married can be a puzzle. Sometimes he is so emotive and gushy and lovey that I’m like, “Ew. Get a room.” Other times (like the past month) he is so deeply up inside his own head that I feel like I’m living with a stranger. 

In our relationship, many of the traditional male/female roles can be reversed. I’m intense, he’s mild; I’m a dreamer, he’s a task man; I’m a fighter, he’s a healer. So when things are trending weird between us, I tend to put on my Handy Wifey Belt and try to fix it. Fix ALL the things!

Are you sad? Are you mad? Are you tired? Are you unfulfilled in your job? Do you love the kids? Do you love me? Do you want to have sex? Why don’t you want to have sex? You’re a man… aren’t you supposed to always want to have sex? Did something happen at work? Do you need to go to the gym? What am I doing wrong? Can I cook you something? Is the house too messy? Did I mess up? Did I do too much? Did I not do enough?

When I don’t feel loved (because Mr. Man is in a Man Funk—let’s call a spade a spade), I feel insecure. When I feel insecure, I go into an “Oh $h*t” bubble where my tension and fear drive my actions and emotions. Shocker: that doesn’t help the situation. 

Today, I went into Misses Fix-It Mode. It just happened to be the day that Dear Husband was going into Lumber Jack Mode to take down the tree in our backyard. So he’s totally zoned in on tree murder, and I’m all, “But the feeeeeeelings!!!” To my credit, I didn’t complain. I buttoned my lips, took on child duties, and kept grumbles on the inside. 

The day goes on. The tree comes down branch by branch. Husband decides to skip the trip to the library that he promised our oldest son. I fill in as Library Chaperone… and that’s where the real trouble starts.

It ends up being one of those humiliating experiences where half the moms are glaring at you because you aren’t disciplining fiercely enough and the other half are glaring at you because you’re being too tough and he’s just a baby… because… parenting theories. And the child in question is throwing his shoes into the light fixtures, running around screeching like Braveheart, beating the table with puzzles, and peeing on the floor. *second facepalm* 

My anxiety meter was ticking up bit by bit. We made a run for the car. Crying fits and a zillion “Why’s” on the drive home put me over the edge.

We screech into the drive way. All three of us in tears. I launch myself into the mosquito laden air and shout up at my husband (who is brandishing a chainsaw on an extra tall ladder), “You are DONE with the tree, Honey!”

Things kind of devolved from there. I ended up running away to eat CFA ice cream alone in my car, because my feelings are delicious when they’re angry. 

Then we finally sat down and had a big talk.

I feel like I’m in a pressure cooker with these kids.
Me too.
I feel like my dreams for myself are crushed by real life.
Me too. 
I feel like there are so many needs pressing down on me.
Me too.
I feel like we’re far, far apart.
Me too.

Marriage is hard. When we’re both maxed out, it’s even harder to support each over on this race. When both people are exhausted, strained, needy, hungry, and loosing hope it’s almost impossible to listen, care, support, try, open yourself, extend compassion, speak with kindness, hear the other person’s need.
For the introverts, it’s easier to bottle it up and just go through the motions from the safety of your inward place. 
For the extroverts, it’s easier to lash out and thrash loudly and demand love to pull some kind of reaction out of your introverted partner.
And the introverts go more inward. 
And the extroverts push more outward. 
And round and round we go. 
It’s harder to bend toward each other.

Can you guess which one I am? I’d rather be fighting than not communicating at all. At least we’re connecting!! Even if it is through tears and accusations!! Bless.

Today we bent toward each other. 
That’s all. It’s no grand conclusion. It’s no “And then, dun dun daaa, they lived happily ever after with this handy tip for perfect marriage under their belts.”
We just bent toward each other. 
I pressed him and refused to let him hide in his inwardness, but I did it with gentleness in my speech and compassion in my eyes. He opened up and admitted that he was tired and feels like Less than he wants to be. We acknowledged each other’s struggle. We acknowledged that this wouldn’t be the last time we would get into this fight. We looked for practical ways to support each other, even from our places of mutual brokenness. 

Sometimes all you can do is bend.